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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 12 Preview


Week 12 Preview

Woo-Hoo! It’s time for Week 12 and some great college football, games that bring relatives  together all the while yelling at each other and hating your kin while the game is on. Afterwards, victors smile as the vanquished shake their hands and hang their heads, muttering, under their breaths, “Wait till next year.” Who’s making it to Conference Championship games, heck, it’s all on the line now and it doesn’t matter who’s playing whom. Lose now, and teams have to find comfort in secondary goals. In the South, and I’m talking about SEC Country, there is little solace in secondary goals. Oh, sure, in time, fans accept those second tier achievements and even take pride in them. But these losses haunt teams for ages, which is why rivalries are born and grudges are never settled. All these things make college football the greatest, so grab some cigars, stock the refrigerator, fill the cooler, It’s College Football!

Georgia vs. Auburn, one of the most legendary and oldest rivalries in the South,  first played in 1892, postponed only three time due to two world wars, awfully inconvenient to have a war during football season. At this game, it’s “Call the Dawgs!” against “War Eagle.” Auburn is having a Auburnresurgence under new head coach Malzahn. Taking the Tigers, who were 3-9 last year, to 9-1, and 5-1 in the SEC this year. This is Auburn’s next to last game of the year. After this they have a break and then the Iron Bowl. The Iron Bowl, should there be any readers who are unwashed, is Alabama versus Auburn, and, if you want to talk about rivalries!! Not yet, not yet, stay tuned. The Tigers already have one loss in the SEC, to LSU. The only chance they have to make it to the semi-final BCS Championship game (SEC Championship game that is) is to win out. Even if Alabama loses to Mississippi State (Gasp!), the Tigers still have to run the table. The resurgence of the Plainsmen is dependent solely upon the run. Stop the running game, and they are at a standstill. Auburn might attempt 8 passes a game, maybe. The reason for this mentality? They don’t have a Quarterback that can throw. There’s nothing complicated about their offensive, they just line up and run the ball. They believe their big Pit Monsters can beat up and wear down the defense. So far, it’s worked, except against the SEC’s other Tigers. Defensively, Auburn needs some help. You see, they don’t “Stop” anyone, per se. They would like to hit hard but they’re too busy chasing people from behind. When they’ve played follow SEC’ers, they just can’t shut anyone out. Auburn is going to have a simple game plan. Run the ball,  dominate time of possession, pray the defense stops any ball carrier, someone, somehow. Backyard football games have more deception than what the Tigers bring. Remember the old saying, “If it an’t broke, don’t fix it.” Auburn’s ground game ain’t broke.

The hospital in Athens, GA, has released enough players for the Bulldogs to field a team, but there will still be a few doctors and nurses on stand-by. Georgia was having a good season until the Tennessee game when players sustained injuries after every play, it seemed. The Dawgs still won, but what a cost. I would call it a Pyrrhic Victory. Because of those players being sidelined, Missouri routed Georgia and Vanderbilt dispatched them will little trouble. But UGA is back onGeorgiaBulldogs track, players have recovered, and the Bulldogs regained some momentum by beating Florida. It’s always a pick-me-up to beat an old foe. UGA had the best tandem of running backs in the nation back in August. Now only half that tandem is playing. Gurley is back in pads and looking to return to his former form. Should he be able run without breaking something, or tearing something else, or straining something, twisting, – you get the picture – it will open up the passing game for Murray and then the Dogs could be unstoppable. But they’ve got to get the running game going. Auburn has played well so far, but they don’t have the horses to execute a complex game plan. If they have to worry about Gurley gaining 4 to 5 yards per carry, (he averages 6 per touch) and then sweat it out when Murray drops back to pass, the Tigers are in trouble, and it looks like this is looming in the form of Georgia. But if Auburn stymies the Dawgs’ running game, UGA is in trouble. On defense, the Bulldogs need to stack the line of scrimmage and sell out on stopping the run. Make Auburn pass the ball. When Auburn QB Marshall drops back to pass, make him actually throw the ball. Surround him, but hold the line and force him to throw. If his first read isn’t open, he loves to tuck the ball and run. He prefers to tuck the ball and run. But, Georgia is weak on the defensive side of the ball. Early in the season, Georgia had no illusions of what they had to do, which was to score every time they had the ball because their defense, or lack thereof, was going to give up points. Against the War Eagle bunch, they need to stop just one aspect of the game, the run. Easier said than done, but it’s all they have to do on defense. Let’s create a new saying;- “If it ain’t broke, break it!” Auburn’s run game ain’t broke;- break it.

Georgia is rounding back into form, Auburn is having a terrific turn-around. Georgia still has illusions (delusions?) of winning the SEC East. Auburn is waking up in the middle of the night actually dreaming they’re going to win the SEC West. No doubt about it, Auburn is playing well, and compared to last year, they are playing fantastically! Georgia is a more balanced team with more weapons. “Call the Dawgs! Beats War Eagle.”

Up in the frozen country of the Great White North, Michigan State and Nebraska square off. The Corn-shukers of the Midwest have owned the Spartans. Seven times they’ve meet on the gridiron and seven times Nebraska has walked off the field with victory. But like any good Spartan warrior, (did you know that, next to the Tide, I like Leonidas and the Spartan warriors best? The Real Spartans, from Greece. A long time ago. ), Michigan State keeps on coming at the Huskers. Today  will be no different, the Spartans will throw themselves head-first into the fray, grimly determined to prevail the entire time – but enjoying the battle. MSU is favored this time and they know it, all they have to do is execute. Follow Nike’s motto and, “Just Do It!” Not sure the winged Greek Goddess actually said that, but makes good copy. Nebraska lost Taylor Martinez, so Tommy Armstrong has started at QB and he’s already put himself into Big Red legend status with a Nebraskacompleted Hail Mary to beat Northwestern. But these Huskers are relying on running back Ameer Abdullah who has 1,213 yards under his cleats this year. With Armstrong taking snaps it limits Nebraska somewhat because he’s is not a replacement for Martinez’ running ability. The Big Red team has already lost one GWN conference game, to Minnesota, who is becoming the best story in all the GWN conference, and one loss outside the conference to UCLA. The last two games have been a bit close. The NW game, as mentioned and against the other mitten-state team (Michigan, the State, is shaped like a mitten, on the map. Even folks in SEC country know that), they only won by 4, 17-13. Nebraska is a team that’s in a bit of flux. They lost their offensive identity with Martinez and no one believes in the mystic of the Black Shirts anymore. It’s a bit strange say that a team that’s lost only two games is searching for an identity but that’s the case. Nebraska – which means “Black Water”, by the way – needs to beat the Spartans to have any chance of going to the GWN Championship game to take on Ohio State.

Michigan State does have an identity and it’s defense! Hard-hitting, slobber-knocking defense. Offense? Yes, they’ve got one, but it’s more of an afterthought. The Spartans want to play Defense, they love it. They had a slip-up against Notre Dame, the planets must have slipped out of alignment, or there was a cosmic anomaly of some sort because for State to lose that game makes no sense at all, None. Besides the Irish, no one has even come close to whipping Sparty. Hard to win a game when your opponent doesn’t let you score. The Big Green defense ranks first in just about every category. That is hard for this Alabama fan to write,  but facts are facts. Against the run, nothing, less than nothing, actually, Michigan had -47 yards rushing. That’s almost half a football field in the negative. If the Wolverines had popped a 50-yard break away run, their rushing total would be 3. This is what is called defense. When an opposing quarterback drops back to pass, he’s hoping and praying that his primary receiver is open because he’s throwing it to him anyway, he has to. If he starts to check down, he’s taking his life in his hands, briefly. AfterMichigan State that, it’s in the hands of the Spartan defense, and they’re rough hands. Quarterbacks hate to get hit, and MSU knows it and thrives on it.  Along the way, the Spartans have found an offense. Okay, Okay, let’s not go crazy here, they’re not gangbusters, nor are they setting scoreboards on fire, but they have started to show some signs of life on the offensive side of the ball. The running game has picked up, this young whippersnapper QB, Cook, has shown he can throw the ball to the guy wearing the same colored jersey as himself. That’s improvement. They’ve found out how to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals and they keep getting better!

Should the planets not slip, or a comet hit the Yucatan and throw everything off kilter, Michigan State’s defense is going to stop Nebraska. Nebraska ‘s defense is going to stop Michigan State’s offense, most of the time, but not all. The Spartans break the 7 game losing streak and stay on track to take down Ohio State and make their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1988.

The Battle of the Big 12 that only has 10 teams. Texas holds a half-game lead over Baylor and full game lead over Oklahoma State. After three games the Longhorns had beaten New Mexico State and the entire college football world was making retirement plans for Coach Mack Brown. Since then they have won 6 games, including a huge win over Red River Rival Oklahoma. They did have to go into overtime to beat West “By Golly” Virginia, who has won four games including one of the biggest upsets of the year when they thoroughly thrashed Oklahoma State. For the Longhorns to continue their quest of a the Big 12 Title, that only represents 10 teams, they need to get past Texas LonghornsOSU. It will not be easy. In the overtime victory against WVU, the Horns lost running back Johnathan Gray to an  arrow in his heel, (torn Achilles tendon). He joins linebacker Jordan Hicks with his torn Achilles tendon. QB David Ash has been out a bit with a concussion and starting tackle Chris Whaley went down when his left knee went out.  UT controls its own fate. Within conference play, they’re undefeated. After OSU, they have formerly high-flying Texas Tech and current Top Five Baylor. Win and it’s party time, BCS Bowl style, and it solidifies Mack Brown’s future.  And, more importantly, it stops all this profane talk about  St. Nick leaving Alabama.

Oklahoma State was picked to win the Big 12, that only has ten teams, at the start of the season, and they were on track to do just that, but four games into their schedule and they tripped over West Virginia. They have recovered well and have run the table since, to be ranked #12 in the nation this morning. They’ve beaten Texas Tech, and with a win here and a win over Baylor, the conference title is theirs, even if they drop the last game against OU. For right now, the Cowboys have to beat Texas. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Pokes lose and the season is a bust. Coach Gundy knows what’s in front of them. “You’re at a point in the season where you need to win one to get to the next one if you want to stay in the race.” So far the Cowboys’ rush defense has struggled, they’re giving up 150 yards per game. Last week they gave up 202 yards to Kansas! Nobody gives up that much to KU. So improvement against the run has to occur. If the Jayhawks can put up that many yards, just think of how much damage a team that actually knows how to run the ball can do. Oklahoma State still beat Kansas, 4OSU cowboys2-6, let’s not get carried away here. OSU’s biggest problem has been that they are unappreciated, disrespected. Ever since losing to WVU, no one has taken them seriously. It’s a mistake, for this is a solid team loaded with talent.

Texas has been making waves all season. OSU has been overlooked – and they like it that way. Texas has lost too many players to be able hang with the Cowboys. OSU wins, but Coach Brown still gets to keep his job. Roll Tide!

Short Smokes

Alabama makes the 45 minute bus ride to Mississippi State and comes back the winner. Roll Tide!

South Carolina pulls out a victory over Florida

Stanford takes on improving USC and, if they play like they did against Oregon, they’ll beat USC. They’ll beat anybody – except, Ahem!, Bama.

Oklahoma takes on ever-dangerous Iowa State and the Sooners should win.

Wisconsin beats Indiana

Ohio State will continue it’s unbeaten streak at Illinois’ expense.

NC State plays Boston College and BC is picked to win. By the experts. Me.

 Pass-happy Washington State falls to Arizona.

Michigan just might lose to Northwestern

Miami takes on Duke. Can the Blue Devils put down the Hurricanes…hmmm. Kind of doubt it, so I’m not going to say they won’t. But, they won’t.

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